Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year End 2016

First up, let me add my voice to the choir.  Fuck you, 2016.  

David Bowie

Glenn Frey
Maurice White
Keith Emerson AND Greg Lake
George Michael
Bob Cranshaw
Paul Bley
Claus Ogerman
Rudy Van Gelder
Toots Thielemans

George Martin
Jeremy Steig

Bernie Worrell
Scotty Moore
Muhammad Ali
Ron Glass
Gene Wilder
Debbie Reynolds
and of course Carrie Fisher

This is nowhere near exhaustive, but somehow indicative of what this year took from us.  It's not just "oh how sad, this famous person died".  These were people who provided more than art or entertainment, they said important things, they opened doors, showed possibilities, proved individuality could thrive.  And in far too many cases, left us too soon.  So, yeah, fuck you 2016. 

Now, about my year.  

I've always felt like I was a pretty stable person emotionally.  Not too many highs or lows.  Always pretty even keel.  Of course, every once in a while "Red Victor" would show up, but not often.  And every so often I'll be reduced to a blubbering mess, but again, not often.  It seems, however, that I'm becoming much more manic.  I could blame work (and largely do).  I'm usually so spent, and have had the life sucked out of me so thoroughly that I've little left to give to things that matter to me.  Sure, that's my story for why I can barely manage things most nights.  But there are rare bursts - of energy, of creativity, of positivity - that result in me actually getting some work done.  Like when I wrote a string quartet in 4 days over Memorial Day Weekend (ok, so I had the basic theme to the Lullaby movement before that, but it was severely re-harmonized during that 4 day stretch, so I'm sticking with my "I wrote it in 4 days" version).  Or when I re-orchestrated a bunch of pieces around July 4.  Seems like I did all my best work over about an eight day stretch.  The rest of the year feels like a bust.  I'd like to find a way to get back to a more even keel, level out the highs and lows so that I can be somewhat productive all the time.  We'll see how that goes. 

My one real accomplishment was "Merely Clever", the new recording.  The good thing is it feels like an improvement over previous efforts.  But I've just been kind of stuck since I finished it.  Did the usual round of gigs - Exit 12, Monks' Monks, some cool pickup jazz gigs.  Did a little recording with the Monks.  Scored a bargain on a guitar.

$260 shipped, with a case.  Thought it would be a "beater" type guitar, but used it on a couple of jazz gigs and it turns out it's a real keeper.  Long scale (25.5) semi, which is a cool variation.  Even though the coming year marks 40 years with my Ibanez Strat and I want to use that as much as possible, I have a feeling this one will find it's way to a bunch of gigs as well.

Listening?  I did do a lot of symphony listening, as I had hoped.  Built up quite a library in the process.  Dvorak, Berwald, Liszt, Borodin, Glazunov.  I'm starting to come around on Vaughan Williams, and actually dug more Holst, in contradiction to what I wrote at the end of last year.  Also discovered Hal McKusick - my new 6th favorite alto player (Bird, Ornette, Desmond, Hodges, Keith Gurland, Hal, Cannonball - probably Phil Woods).  Dug into more Blakey and Cannonball as my tastes continue to coalesce around very mainstream, swinging types of things.  Sam Jones and Louis Hayes - maybe my favorite rhythm section.  The Gerry Mulligan Concert Band was also a revelation this year (as I was digging through more and more Mulligan).  Also finally found the good Charlie Byrd.  I feel bad I ever had harsh things to say about him.  Hearing his earlier recordings I understood that he struggled with tone as years went by through no fault of his own, but dealing with drummers and equipment.  I would assume the same for certain harmonic tendencies - his early recordings a really great.  At least I finally came around.  

Reading?  I feel like I was always reading something, but somehow nothing jumps out.  Star Trek Legacies series started out really good, ended up just ok.  Read the first volume of "Women of Wonder" which I really enjoyed.  Second volume is staring at me.  I'll get to it, I promise.  I feel like trying to get through my "Columbia History of the World" again.  Of course, I still haven't made it all the way through "Brahms and the Principal of Developing Variation".  I think this is the third time I've started it.  Made it farther this time.  Maybe I can push through it.  

Watching?  Last season of Castle, which I'll do my best to forget.  Rogue One.  Rush's "Time Stand Still" documentary left me in tears.

We did get to spend a fair amount of time out doors.  Found some nice parks nearby in NJ.  Had some great walks on SI, though, especially in Blue Heron Park.  

Nice vacation in New Paltz, where we experienced 3 seasons in 3 days.

Of course, the "kids" are all great. 

I'm just glad to be rid of this year.  It feels hard to look forward to what's ahead, but you know, these folks (and not always just the characters they portrayed) can offer words of wisdom.

What do they give us?  


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Brain atrophy

I haven't thought a decent thought in a very long time.  I'm afraid it's from disuse.  I thought doing some writing may wake the grey matter up.  I like to blame my job, or allergies, or simply being tired, but it's probably more about being lazy, and needing to break out of bad habits.  One step forward, several back.  I'll see if this helps.

So, without an interesting or original thought to write about, I'll just mention that I'm listening to Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony.  In my reading on symphonies, the 4th had some interesting features - clever key relationships in the first movement, along with a differentiation between thematic second subject and harmonic second subject - ie. second theme is in one key, but proper key for second subject is only arrived at later.  Plus the 2nd and 3rd movements are beautiful and fun in turn.  Once I listen a few times, maybe I'll have something original to add.

Also, of late I've decided I need to swing more.  And not just in my playing.  I figure, if I don't swing, my playing won't swing.  Let's see how that all goes.

Hopefully I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Year End

Well, well, well.  Another year come and gone.  I just went back and re-read last year's YE post, and one thing I wanted to happen actually happened - I lost 25 lbs.  Cut out (for the most part) bread, potatoes, cheese and booze.  Brought the booze back, but in more limited quantities.  Would like to drop another 15, been stuck where I am for a few months.  Maybe once the weather gets nice.

The other big accomplishment was "Noisome Fardels", my 'classical' record.  A not-bad learning experience.  Exit 12 had a pretty good year, got a new (and awesome) drummer.  Did nice jazz wedding with Marc (guitar duo), and a couple of PE 17 gigs - Project 5 + Exit 12.  Usual Monk's stuff, some trio.

Great vacation in Ithaca, especially Buttermilk Falls.

Donna rescuing 5 kittens and the mom (Bruce, T.O.M., Nook, Poppy and Baby Kitty)

All my stuff is on YouTube now, thanks to CD Baby.  That was a nice surprise.

Watching - added Modern Family to the rotation.  Of course, Star Wars - The Force Awakens.

Reading - Dune (loved it! Thought it would take all summer to read, but got through it in maybe 2 weeks, which isn't a long time considering it's 800-900 pages).  The Left Hand of Darkness (loved it so much I read it twice in a row.  Very high on my all-time list).  A couple of Richard Castle books.  The usual assortment of comic books.  Re-read Neuromancer.   A bunch of music books - "Cambridge Guide to..." books are like taking a seminar.  Went through a couple, got a couple more lined up.

Listening - just started a really serious study of the symphony and it's evolution.  Some early standouts that are newish to me - Schumann #2, Honegger (the lot of 'em).  Lots of soundtrack music - Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Gallactica, Bernard Hermann.  The sci-fi soundtracks led me back to Holst.  Love "The Planets".  His other stuff leaves me a little cold (as does Vaughan Williams, go figure).

Jazz - DeJohnette "Tin Can Alley", Brookmeyer "Desiderata", Shelly Manne "The Three and The Two" with Giuffre.  Went back to Wes and Phil Woods/Gene Quill.  And Max Roach/Clifford Brown.  My listening tastes in jazz are coalescing in a somewhat mainstream vein, and I think I'm ok with that.  

Live - GC, Jr. leading the octet.  Rush R40 at MSG.

Had a fun day-after day-after Christmas going through my mother's photos.  Got to see pictures of my family going back more generations that I would have thought.

For the New Year?  Well, I've been practicing a bit.  Trying to get a new trio repertoire together.  Let my playing reflect my tastes - Getz, Bickert, Desmond - more mainstream and less "mainstream modernist".  Try to be melodic while exploring texture, but always swing.  I'd like next 'record' to be a symphony and those pieces for guitar and orchestra that have been hanging around for years waiting to be orchestrated.  Plus the Scherzo from "Trees Falling..." when I can find time that works for Keith to record it.  I've still got a book of jazz tunes that need to be recorded - some with a live band and some with "electronic" orchestrations/elaborations.  Maybe some octet charts?    

Have a big graduation to look forward to this year.  Work has some interesting projects about to start up.  Not a bad year, if a little quiet on the "big deal" front, wouldn't mind another year like it.  Movin' along, which is about the best you can hope for.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year End

2014, here and gone.  There was one overriding event that took most of my energy this year, and happily it feels (at the moment, anyway) that it was well worth it.  Let’s take a look back.

Got to enjoy the last 2 concerts from my 50th birthday present – Shostakovich’s 5th with Bartok’s 3rd Piano Concerto, and Mahler’s 3rd.  Sadly, driving into Manhattan has turned into a nightmare, so the thought of going to more concerts is almost repulsive. 

Got to go to the USA Curling finals in PA.  I loved this.  Loved, loved, LOVED it.  Had the best time, but had no idea it would be so cold in the arena.  Great New Paltz vacation.  

“Exit 12” and our alter-ego “Equinox – the Styx Tribute” had a pretty good year.  The “Legends of Rock” concert in Delaware a big highlight, along with some good local gigs, a couple of acoustic turns at “Back to the Beach”, and more Styx at “Bikers for Bini”.  

The Monks had a couple of nice gigs, and did a nice mandolin gig, too.  A couple of gigs with Lance, including his birthday party and the wedding ceremony/cocktail hour.   Did “paid reherasal” gig at Alor to prepare for next 2 records.  Kept reasonably sharp with my jazz playing, improved my piano playing, got a great mandolin (after having a bad experience with the first one I bought), but still haven’t made any progress on violin.  This year…

Of course, the big event for the year was “Shorts and Suites” with Keith Gurland at Symphony Space.  He premiered my “Trees, Falling in Forests (Making Sounds)”.  The effort that went into that was more than pretty much anything I’ve ever done before, but it feels like a success. 

Listening – more Mahler, Sibelius, Shostakovich and Berg (particularly his Violin Concerto).  Added more Samuel Barber of late, which is striking a chord with me.  

Watching - Guardians of the Galaxy, oh YEAH!

Reading – digging my Kindle, I have to admit.  Tons of comic books - including "Leaves on the Wind" and "Clockwork Angels".  Of course, the most important reading from this year is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series.  Read all 5 books twice.  Absolutely my favorite books of all time. 42.

The coming year?  Who knows.  I want to record those tunes, sooner than later, finances permitting.  Have to get “Trees…” out to the world, see if it opens any doors.  Do another record at home, more on the electronic side of jazz.  Lots of writing that needs to get finished – piano sonatina, orchestral pieces, orchestrate the guitar ‘concerto’. 

It would be good to take better care of myself physically – lose some weight, get the back feeling better.  Hopefully it will be another happy, healthy, productive year.  Who could ask for more?   

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Trees, Falling in Forests (Making Sounds)

Score and parts are done! Hoo-freakin'-ray!

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 - YE

Nothing inspired me to write this year, so it's just another year-end list.  Hmm..., let's see...

The year started slowly for me, digging out from more loss than I anticipated.  Happily I was able to generate a nice "little" project for myself and started writing a group of pieces for my 6th favorite alto player ever.  I had expected to record it at home, but turns out that we're now planning an actual live performance this coming year, which means that I have to write for an actual rather than a virtual ensemble (limiting and liberating at the same time), and more importantly - I have to actually finish it.  That will certainly be my creative focus the next few months.

Did a number of nice "jazz" gigs with my tunes from "Late Nighting" and finally from "A Mess of Pottage".  Of course, finishing and releasing "Mess" was probably my big accomplishment for the year.

Exit 12 kept busy, as usual.  Some exciting things coming up, stay tuned.

Saw Swan Lake.  Saw NY Phil play some Hitchcock music while they screened the scenes.  Also got to see Sibelius' 5th, which left me unable to walk (along with Ravel's Mother Goose and Salonen's violin concerto).

Speaking of violin - played around a bit more with that, but made no real progress.  Mandolin has been getting better and better, and recently put together an acoustic project so I can concentrate on mandolin.

Phew got married.  I cried a lot.  Transmigration of the Beef, I insist was the reason.

Of course the big, mass 50th birthday party weekend was pretty special, most special for gettting to reunite with my "Banned" mate and oldest friend Vinny to do some playing!  Keep on rocking, indeed!  (Too bad our other gig fell through).

A couple of Monk's Monks gigs sprinkled in. 

Got to see Chris Thile play Bach and bluegrass at Carnegie Hall.

Got to play with Gene Bertoncini in Dec.  Always a thrill, and kind of made me re-focus on guitar a bit more.  Putting together a new trio book now, will probably be more open to gigs.

Not a whole lot more jumps out at me.  Kind of a lot of loss around the end of the year, but people at one remove from me - people that people I care about cared about, not people I knew directly.  Still crappy.  Life is short, rock hard.

Of course, we lost Jim Hall.  The best.  

Listening - lots and lots of Sibelius and Mahler, as I had hoped.  And Wagner.  Lots of violin and mandolin music.  Berg - in particular the Seven Early Songs, which became a new favorite.  "Stars Fell on Alabama" bu Louis and Ella made Donna cry. Going back to Jimmy Giuffre to find inspiration for GPM. 

Reading - a bunch of books about Hart Crane, more sci-fi, more comics (Hickman's Fantastic Four and FF were big favorites).  And the Nikki Heat books.

Watching - Castle and 30 Rock, TBBT.  Not much else that jumps out.  Gravity was great, but remember never to go to another THX (or whatever it's called) 3D movie again.  The 3D was ok, but it was so loud we had to stuff our ears with tissues. 

So I look towards the New Year with high hopes for GPM.  I think it can be something special, but I've got to put in the hours.  Part Suite, part song cycle, part chamber music, part jazz.  Could be a nice little summation, if I don't crap it up.

If I think of anything else I'll come back and add it, but it didn't seem like a big standout year for me.  I'm happy that I got a new record finished and released and the new tunes premiered, but that seemed to be all I could manage.  Hopefully this year will see a little more productivity, a little more output.  I'm hopeful that after gestating a lot of ideas, things will flow quickly.  At least I have one (soft, at the moment) deadline, so I know I'll have to finish at least one thing. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Year End

Well, I suppose I could run down the things that seem significant to me from the past year, and I will briefly, but 2012 will really always be about the last two or so months and the 3 events - one with national significance, one with local significance, and one with personal significance - that really dominated.  These are, of course, the Newtown, CT shooting in the school, "Superstorm" Sandy, and losing my Mom. 

It's hard to really say anything about the shooting other than:,30743/?ref=auto

and as for Sandy, my poor hometown will be digging out for years.  So before I get to Mom, here's my list of what I'll remember about the last year, in no significant order.

Listening - Sibelius
Watching - Firefly and Serenity
Reading - more sci-fi, comic books, Analog magazine, some actual science
Seeing - Book of Mormon
My new notion to venture into violin, taking a lengthy detour through the mandolin
Visiting Ithaca and Point Pleasant (just in time, it turned out)
Romeo & Juliet with Rob & John
"Clockwork Angels" at Prudential Center
"Late Nighting" release party at Alor
My daughter graduating high school and starting college

That's about it.  Now on to Mom.

The last night we were with her in the hospital she was pretty out of it most of the time.  During once stretch where she resting, I held her arm and silently said the Lord's Prayer to myself (I'm sure it aggravated her that it took me a couple of tries to remember the whole thing).  In the car as I was leaving the hospital I listened to "The Garden" over and over again and cried.  I went to bed with my cell phone next to me, because I think I knew I was going to get a call that night.  When we told her she had to keep the oxygen mask on and she replied "no, I don't",  I really think she had made up her mind that she was ready, and didn't want to drag on any longer.

I'll leave with what I said at the wake.  Goodbye, Mom.  You'll always be loved and missed.


Getting to spend time with loved ones, with family, was the most important thing to my Mom as the years went on.  And anyone who has ever spent a holiday with our family knows that at some point it usually descends into an outburst of uncontrolled, hysterical laughter.  Our ability to make each other laugh is really central to our family identity, and even in the hospital in her last few days, we got to make my Mom giggle a few times.  And she provided us with a few laughs as well, as when she told the ER doctor straight-faced that she didn’t smoke (“Three days” she told me, as if that could erase 69 years).

Sometimes my Mom wouldn’t appreciate our humor.  There was probably a lot about her kids that she didn’t appreciate – feel free to catalog our list of personal failings at your leisure, I don’t have that kind of time right now.  But the one thing that her kids did for her that no one can really argue is that we provided her with three pretty exceptional grandchildren.  She may have complained that the world had gotten too coarse, too harsh and unrefined, but I think that’s only because she never really got to see the good that went on just outside of her view.  She got a steady diet of bad news and lewd jokes from TV and the radio, and missed out on the truly good, the good that she saw in her grandchildren and wished to see in the wider world.

I want to share a story with her, and with you.  My friend is one of the flooding victims of the recent hurricane, and when I finally got to his house to make sure he was ok, all he could talk about was the army of young people that came to offer help.  "It was such a blessing, kids just showing up to help” he told us.  So you see Ma, they listened to you after all.  I don’t think that we, their parents generation, can take credit for it.  But maybe the example our parents set, truly the greatest generation, provided the example of selflessness, of charity, and of sacrifice that we are seeing right now all over the area, and that would offer her a more hopeful view of the future. 

So Ma, please know that your legacy is a generation of grandchildren with big hearts, and an amazingly inherent understanding of right and wrong closer to the Golden Rule than you could possibly believe.  And as a measure of a life, that’s am amazing legacy, indeed.